Under Hungary’s new law on administrative courts “very extensive powers are concentrated in the hands of a few stakeholders” while the legislation lacks “effective checks and balances to counteract those powers”, the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission said in an opinion.
Members of the European Union have the sovereign right to set up such independent court systems within their judiciary, the commission said, and added that “guaranteeing the transfer of all current administrative judges wishing to be incorporated in the new administrative courts and opening up access to the function of administrative judge to individuals with substantial experience in public administration are commendable”.
In its opinion, however, the body said that the head of the supreme administrative court (SAC) “has a wide range of powers not only in relation to the other SAC judges, but also in relation to judges of other administrative courts and administrative court staff”.
“Individually, most of these powers should not adversely affect the independence of justice and the assignment of powers, but when taken together, in combination with the election of the SAC president by the National Assembly and the broad powers of the justice minister, with whom the president acts in concert on many matters, these powers raise questions”, the opinion said.
The opinion was requested by László Trócsányi, Hungary’s justice minister, who also attended the Friday session of the commission.